Fantasy Football: NFL Combine news bad for Todd Gurley, possibly Christian McCaffrey
Jamey Eisenberg brings you Fantasy Football news from the NFC teams at the NFL Combine, including updates on Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, the Packers backfield and more.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL combine isn't all about the incoming rookies and their workouts. Most coaches and general managers address the media, and we're able to get plenty of news and notes about current players.
And we can bring that information to you, which will help with your Fantasy evaluations for 2019.
We're breaking this up into two parts, with an AFC and NFC notebook, and we'll start with the NFC. The biggest story for Fantasy owners -- and potentially the NFL -- is the health of Rams running back Todd Gurley.
CBS Sports NFL writer John Breech. Breech reported that Rams coach Sean McVay was asked about the possibility of a stem cell procedure at the NFL combine and denied it, but McVay did say that the team is looking at "new methods" to help Gurley with his ailing knee.
"As far as the stem cells, that's not something that's been communicated to me, but there is a program," McVay said. "We've got these doctors and there's always new methods of staying as up-to-date as you can, and number one, the player has to feel good about it. Todd does such a good job of doing his own research and knowing what are the things [he] can do."
McVay said surgery is not an option for Gurley. According to McVay, the Rams are hoping that they can get Gurley back at full strength this offseason.
"We're going to implement a plan to have him attack it to get that knee back to feeling full strength, feeling good based on just the amount of work that he's gotten," McVay said. "That would be no different whether he missed any games or not, though."
And another troublesome factor for Gurley could be sharing touches with C.J. Anderson or another running back in 2019, according to Rams general manager Les Snead.
"There's an element of wear and tear, and I think we have to determine in probably two stages: are we going to give him the amount of load that he's had in the past or are we going to lessen that load to let's say keep him fresher for the season and for the seasons beyond," Snead said. "If you go that route, you have to have a good, let's call it Batman and Robin combination or add another superhero figure into that and figure how you're going to do it. We're in the process of figuring that out, and I do think with Todd and his career -- it happens to a lot of young guys, all of a sudden they wake up ... and you're a little sorer than you were the day before."
This news, as of early March, is making it hard to consider Gurley as the No. 1 overall pick, and another report said Gurley is dealing with arthritis in his knee. It might be hard to consider him a top five overall pick or even first-round selection if Gurley needs an offseason procedure for his knee.
Despite Gurley rushing for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns on 256 carries, as well as 59 catches for 580 yards and four touchdowns last year, he could be considered a bust in 2019. It's a major story to monitor over the next few months.
News: Cooper Kupp (ACL) should be ready by training camp.
Quote to note: "I would just say that it's something that we're going to monitor this offseason, but we fully expect him to be ready to go for training camp," McVay said.
Fantasy outlook: Kupp tore his ACL in Week 10, and it's a good sign that he should return by training camp. When healthy, Kupp is a low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. He will be taken after Round 5 in all formats. In 2018, Kupp had 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns on 56 targets in eight games.
Quote to note: "One-two punch and I don't know who's one or who's two," Carroll said. "It doesn't matter to me. I thought both guys did a really good job."
Fantasy outlook: This isn't a big surprise to hear Carroll say there will be competition at running back after Penny was selected with a first-round pick in last year's NFL Draft. But Carson was a star in 2018 with 247 carries for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as 20 catches for 163 yards. We'll see how Penny is used in 2019, but Carson should be a Round 4 pick, with Penny a great sleeper with a late-round selection.
News: Doug Baldwin had surgery on his knee and shoulder following the season.
Quote to note: "He's making progress, working at it hard,'' Carroll said. "He's working at the facility regularly. His spirits are good about it. He's got some work to do, he's got a shoulder and a knee thing that he's working on. He got some stuff fixed up."
Fantasy outlook: Baldwin had a rough year in 2018 due to injury, and he missed three games. He turns 31 this season, but he should be a rebound candidate in 2019. Baldwin had 50 catches for 618 yards, each his fewest stats in that category since 2013, and he scored five touchdowns. Baldwin will likely be drafted in Round 5 or later in most leagues.
News: Jerick McKinnon (ACL) will be ready for 2019 and will be the No. 1 running back for the 49ers.
Quote to note: "Jerick's been working his tail off," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It's the first time he's hurt his knee and everything is on pace to be back. We're really excited to get him back."
Fantasy outlook: Shanahan was asked if McKinnon would be the lead guy in 2019, and he said, "Yeah, that's what we brought him here for." Matt Breida will still play a prominent role for the 49ers, but McKinnon should be considered the better Fantasy option of the two. As long as he's healthy, plan to draft McKinnon around Round 5 in most leagues, with his value slightly higher in PPR. Breida is still worth drafting with a mid- to late-round pick depending on the health of McKinnon heading into training camp.
News: 49ers excited about Dante Pettis after a strong rookie season
Quote to note: "We loved the way he closed this season," 49ers general manager John Lynch said. "There's some maturation that I think is naturally going to come in terms of putting some girth on and some strength. I think this offseason is very important for him."
Fantasy outlook: Pettis had 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns on 44 targets, but he did most of his damage toward the end of the season. He scored at least 13 PPR points in four of his final five games, and we're excited to see him build off that performance, especially with a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo (ACL). We'll see what the 49ers do at receiver this offseason, but Pettis has the chance to be a breakout candidate in all leagues. He's worth a look beginning in Round 7 in all formats.
News: New Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury excited to work with David Johnson
Quote to note: "Couple years removed, he had a ton of yards, was productive in the passing game and the rushing attack, and we want to get him back there," Kingsbury said. "We want to make him a pivotal part of our offense. He has the mental makeup and the talent to do that."
Fantasy outlook: Johnson didn't have a great season in 2018, but he still managed more than 1,300 total yards and 10 touchdowns. He has the chance to improve on those stats under Kingsbury, especially with a better offense around him. In 2016, Johnson had more than 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns before dealing with a wrist injury in 2017. He should still be considered a low-end No. 1 running back worth drafting in Round 2 in all formats.
News: Surprise, Jason Witten is back after he retired in 2018 to broadcast Monday Night Football
Quote to note: "Playing football still tugged at his heart. I think he felt there was still some meat on the bone, some things he still wanted to accomplish," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "I just think he loves it and wants to be in this environment. There is no doubt in his mind he can still play, and there is no doubt in my mind he can still play. Excited to have him back."
Fantasy outlook: Witten isn't going to become a Fantasy starter again, especially at 37 once the season starts and not playing last year. In 2017, Witten caught 63 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns, and that should be considered his ceiling. Now, he should help Dak Prescott as another reliable target, especially if Cole Beasley leaves as a free agent. And he's a credible blocker to help Ezekiel Elliott in the run game. But as a Fantasy asset, forget about Witten on Draft Day in most leagues.
News: Coach Doug Pederson wants to get tight end Dallas Goedert more involved
Quote to note: "Dallas is a tremendous worker, hard studier," Pederson said. "We saw the skill set obviously through film study and through the offseason program and training camp. When you have a number of targets on offense, it becomes a challenge -- it becomes a challenge to get everybody the ball. ... And yet we still found ways to get him involved. I think that's going to be a topic for us as a coaching staff moving forward. He's a big piece to our success."
Fantasy outlook: Goedert had 33 catches for 334 yards and four touchdowns on 44 targets as a rookie in 2018, but he's the No. 2 tight end for the Eagles behind Zach Ertz. That's not expected to change, barring injury, but the Eagles do need help in the passing game behind Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Goedert is someone to keep an eye on in training camp to see if his role will expand, but he's only a late-round flier at best in re-draft leagues for 2019.
News: Washington is going to need a quarterback in 2019 with Alex Smith (leg) unlikely to play
Quote to note: "This is an injury that's tough to overcome, but you also don't know Alex and what he can do with his mind and what he can overcome," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "Will he be ready next year or the year after? I don't know. We'll play it by ear."
Fantasy outlook: Washington might have the worst Fantasy roster in the NFL prior to free agency and the NFL Draft. Aside from Derrius Guice, who missed his rookie campaign with a torn ACL, there really isn't any player to covet, especially with Adrian Peterson and Jamison Crowder heading into free agency, along with Jordan Reed annually dealing with injuries. Chris Thompson and Josh Doctson will be late-round picks, but this team needs plenty of help. Keep an eye on the quarterback situation this offseason, but the Redskins could be a Fantasy wasteland in 2019.
News: Eli Manning to remain with the Giants in 2019
Quote to note: "I think Eli can help us win games and he proved -- when the players around him started playing better -- that he can play at a very high level and help us win games, so at this point, I want Eli back," Giants coach Pat Shurmur said.
Fantasy outlook: Manning isn't going to become a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2019, and the Giants will be among the teams in play for a rookie quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft. But Manning can still be successful enough to help Odell Beckham (who should remain with the Giants) and Saquon Barkley remain elite Fantasy options. Manning is only a backup Fantasy quarterback in all leagues.
News: Jordan Howard could be replaced or lose work
Quote to note: "When you're dealing with running backs for us in this offense, you want to be able to have a guy that has really good vision that can make guys miss," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "At the same time, there's that balance of being a hybrid, being able to make things happen in the pass game too, but yet to where you're not one-dimensional. And that's not easy."
Fantasy outlook: Howard had some good moments in 2018 under Nagy, but he was mostly touchdown dependent. He only had two games with more than 100 rushing yards and four games with more than 80 rushing yards, but he scored nine touchdowns and finished with 1,080 total yards. Still, he's a one-dimensional running back and had a career-low 20 receptions. Tarik Cohen would like more work in 2019, and he's a better receiver out of the backfield. We'll see what happens with Howard, who could be traded, but he's a low-end No. 2 running back in most leagues if he stays in Chicago, with his value slightly lower in PPR.
News: Coach Mike Zimmer confident in Kirk Cousins having rebound year
Quote to note: "I think he had a good year," Zimmer said. "I think because he signed a big contract everybody is on his rear-end about this, and we didn't win enough games -- and same with me, I guess. The big thing is, is every free agent I ever had, in 25 or 26 years or however many years I've been coaching, they've always played better the second year. They have to learn where everything is, they have to find a place to live. ... All these guys typically when they come in, they don't know anybody, they don't know where their locker is, any of this stuff. You throw that in with new terminology, whatever. But I think he's going to play great."
Fantasy outlook: Cousins finished as the No. 12 Fantasy quarterback in 2018 with 4,298 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, as well as 123 rushing yards and a touchdown. He had eight games with more than 20 Fantasy points, but he only reached that mark once in his final five games. The offense will be more run heavy under offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and offensive advisor Gary Kubiak in 2019, but Cousins should still be considered a low-end No. 1 option, especially in deeper leagues. He's worth a late-round pick at best on Draft Day.
Quote to note: "You'd better have two guys that can go, because I think it's the most violent position, the hits those guys can end up taking," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
Fantasy outlook: It sounds like the Packers want Jones to be the lead back, with Williams more of a complementary option, but both running backs will get touches. Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said "I think it's tough for one back to kind of carry the whole load. Aaron is capable. He obviously has to continue to condition his body so he can be available all the time. But when he's on the field, he's a difference-maker for us. We want him out there as much as we can." Jones only played in 11 healthy games in 2018, but he scored at least 14 PPR points in seven of them and looks like a better player than Williams. I would draft Jones no later than Round 4 in all leagues, and Williams is worth a late-round pick, especially as a handcuff for Jones.
News: Lions will likely add competition for Kerryon Johnson
Quote to note: "I'm not going to put a number on how many touches he's going to have," Lions general manager Bob Quinn said of Johnson. "Some of the Fantasy Football fans out there might want to know that. Once we get our offense kind of installed with our new coordinator, those carries will be kind of divvied up based on what helps us win each game."
Fantasy outlook: The Lions are expected to part ways with free agent LeGarrette Blount, but Theo Riddick will share touches with Johnson. Detroit could also add another running back, which would be frustrating. However, Johnson missed the final six games of the season in 2018 with a knee injury, and although he's expected to be fine for training camp, Detroit would likely want some insurance. Johnson scored at least 14 PPR points in four of his final five games last season before getting hurt, so hopefully he doesn't get too much competition in 2019. Depending on who else the Lions add, Johnson should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy running back worth drafting around Round 5 in all leagues.
Quote to note: "He certainly has shown that he's capable of [replacing Coleman], but if that (Coleman leaving in free agency) takes place, there will definitely be other guys that we put into the mix to compete with (Smith)," Quinn said
Fantasy outlook: It's unlikely Coleman will return to Atlanta, so Smith will likely be the No. 2 running back behind Devonta Freeman, who played just two games in 2018. Quinn said Smith should have the chance for an increased role, but he could also face competition for the job. As a rookie in 2018, Smith had 90 carries for 315 yards and four touchdowns, along with 27 catches for 152 yards. He's someone to target with a mid-round pick in all leagues if he's the backup to Freeman, and Smith is someone to consider as a sleeper in 2019.
News: Christian McCaffrey could lose some work in 2019
Quote to note: "Understanding what Christian did last year and how many reps he played, that's something that we have to be concerned with," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Now him touching the ball was no concern. It's just the extra plays, so we've really got to look at that and find a way to take some of that load from him."
Fantasy outlook: Before you panic, let's see what the Panthers do with adding to their backfield as competition for McCaffrey, who was one of four running backs to play more than 800 snaps last season, along with Elliott, Barkley and Gurley. And Rivera doesn't exactly want McCaffrey coming off the field, but he does want to get him some help. "I think Christian showed you he can carry the load no matter where he is, no matter where we run him -- whether we run him inside or outside or out of the backfield as a receiver," Rivera said. "Really it would be a guy I'd almost say that has a similar type of skill set – that's really what we're looking for probably." McCaffrey should remain a top-five overall pick in all leagues.
News: Cam Newton (shoulder) doing well in his recovery
Quote to note: "Probably the biggest thing I can tell you is what (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion updated us with, which is that everything is progressing very well," Rivera said. "He's going through his rehab sessions. Everything has been positive."
Fantasy outlook: Newton appears on track to be ready for training camp, which is the hope. If he makes a full recovery as expected then he's again worth drafting as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues. He should be tremendous value with a late-round pick.
News-: Rivera has high expectations for DJ Moore
Quote to note: "How do you label a number one? Is it a vertical number-one threat, or is it a guy that works underneath the defense. For us, he has both skill sets, but the most important thing is getting the ball in his hands more than anything else," Rivera said. "That's the biggest thing we'll work with DJ on -- finding ways to get the ball in his hands."
Fantasy outlook: Moore could be the No. 1 receiver for the Panthers since Devin Funchess is a free agent. As a rookie in 2018, Moore had 55 catches for 788 yards and two touchdowns on 82 targets, along with 172 rushing yards. If no other receiver of significance is added via free agency or the NFL Draft to replace Funchess, then Moore could be considered a high-end No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. He's someone to target with a mid-round pick.
Quote to note: "I think just going to the next level in terms of being a more consistent player," Rivera said of Thomas. "He made a couple of big plays, then disappeared a little bit, then made a couple. We want him to be able to step to the forefront and be a great complement with Greg Olsen. ... We had a pretty good combination of tight ends, and I think we're getting back to that right now."
Fantasy outlook: Rivera makes it sound like Olsen will play in 2019, which isn't a guarantee since he could retire and become a TV analyst. If that happens, Thomas will be considered a sleeper with a late-round pick. Should Olsen return, Thomas has limited value on Draft Day in re-draft leagues.
News: Bucs not giving up on Ronald Jones -- yet
Quote to note: "A lot of times throughout the preseason, it just seemed like every time we handed him the ball there was somebody in the backfield," said Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht. "I think Ronald needs a confidence boost, and I think he's going to get that. I know he's going to get that. ... Nobody has given up on Ronald Jones. I expect Ronald Jones to have a big jump this year."
Fantasy outlook: The Bucs backfield will be one to monitor this offseason since they could be in the market for a free agent like Le'Veon Bell, or they could add another running back via the NFL Draft. New coach Bruce Arians is also fond of Peyton Barber, who is a restricted free agent. "I love him," Arians said. "When we're building something, that's the kind I want to build around." Jones has a long way to go before Fantasy owners can trust him, but we'll see if he can turns thing around under Arians. Keep an eye on what happens this offseason in Tampa Bay, but Jones could be an interesting flier with a late-round pick.
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